Microsoft and Open Source

There’s some speculation that with Bill Gates’ departure from Microsoft will come a friendlier attitude toward Open Source. From the article:

Will Microsoft become more open to open source with the departure of Bill Gates?

It’s a tough call. Observers from both the open and closed source worlds say the exit of Microsoft’s longtime leader won’t usher in a GPL era at the company but it will likely accelerate what is already a changing attitude in Redmond.

“We already see quite a different approach to dealing with OSS and OSS companies from Sam Ramji’s group [which is] doing a great job in establishing dialog,” said Rafael Laguna, CEO of Open-Xchange and a former marketing exec at SUSE Linux. “With Gates’ departure, the only mammoth remaining is Ballmer. With him away in a near future, Microsoft will definitely open up. They have to.”

Gates’ exit will help acceptance of open source, another observer said.

“For much of Microsoft’s history, its primary strategic initiative has been Windows everywhere. Bill Gates was the primary architect of this and it has served the company well in reaching the $50 billion revenue mark. To get from $50 to $100 billion, however, they will clearly need to embrace the non-Windows world,” said Barry Crist, CEO, Likewise Software. “I suspect this will be easier for Microsoft to accomplish without Gates. We see substantive signs of this happening already.”

One open source backer hints that Gates’ early departure from Microsoft signals the beginning of the end for proprietary software.

“Bill Gates figured out how to harvest from software licensing early on in the game, and built the biggest software company on the planet from it. [But] selling software licenses has become a triviality,” said Juergen Geck, CTO of Openxchange, which competes against Microsoft Exchange.

Now, even with Bill still at Microsoft, the company has been slowly changing its attitude toward Open Source. It’s certainly been an internal struggle, and while some in the company are coming around some are still as averse to Open Source as ever. I maintain that the company will be unable to truly change until Ballmer steps down. The old way of thinking and acting it too ingrained into him and it permeates the decisions he makes. Even so, it’s great to hear a Microsoft rep say something like “We should have done it earlier” about Open Source.

While on the topic of billg, it’s a bit comical to see that even he had major usability problems with Windows.

–jeremy

Linux Magazine is dead, long live Linux Magazine

I hadn’t seen it posted anywhere, but it is now public. InfoStrada will no longer be publishing a print version of Linux Magazine. Linux Pro Magazine, which is known as Linux Magazine outside the USA, will be acquiring some of the print assets. The US-based Linux Magazine will continue operating as a web-only property at http://linux-mag.com/. I’ve been the “Tech Support” columnist for Linux Magazine since 2003 and will continue to write for the online presence. You can view the online archive of my columns at LQ.

–jeremy

Opening up Symbian – Good or Bad for Linux?

That’s the question raised by this recent Nokia press release:

Espoo, Finland – Nokia today announced it has launched a cash offer to acquire all of the shares of Symbian Limited that Nokia does not already own, at a price of EUR 3.647 per share. The net cash outlay from Nokia to purchase the approximately 52% of Symbian Limited shares it does not already own will be approximately EUR 264 million.

The acquisition is a fundamental step in the establishment of the Symbian Foundation, announced today by Nokia, together with AT&T, LG Electronics, Motorola, NTT DOCOMO, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, STMicroelectronics, Texas Instruments and Vodafone. More information about the planned foundation can be found at http://www.symbianfoundation.org.

From the Symbian Foundation site:

The Symbian Foundation platform will be available to members under a royalty-free license from this non-profit foundation. The Symbian Foundation will provide, manage and unify the platform for its members. Also, it will commit to moving the platform to open source during the next two years, with the intent to use the Eclipse Public License. This will make the platform code available to all for free, bringing additional innovation to the platform and engaging even a broader community in future developments.

Keep in mind that while not a huge success in the US, Symbian does still account for about 60% of all smartphones, with the next OS a distant second at about 15%. So, what does this mean for mobile Linux? It’s still unclear to me the direction Nokia will take, so it’s hard to tell. They are all over the place at the moment. The have the GTK based maemo project, have recently acquired TrollTech for QT and now have an Open Source Symbian. Long term, they can’t possibly want to support all three of these. Looking at Symbian specifically, I’m not sure it can compete directly with the likes of the iPhone and Android. The UI looks old and clunky and it doesn’t have a lot of the functionality and polish of the newer mobile offerings. That said, developers know it, it has a huge application catalog and an entrenched base. Whether that will be enough for Symbian to make it out of the Open Source process alive remains to be seen though, and in my opinion it isn’t a certainty. What Nokia does get is 1) options and 2) the perception that they are not sitting on their hands while Android and the iPhone pass it by. Even if Symbian can’t compete feature for feature with something like Android, this announce will serve to remove one of its key advantages. That alone is likely worth the investment to Nokia.

Further Reading:
Linux Foundation
Red Monk
SAI

–jeremy

The OpenSolaris Community v2: Prepare Yourself

Sun is a company I plan on covering a bit more as they continue to delve deeper into Open Source. I’ve commented on the current messaging issue Sun has around its Open Source participation previously. I haven’t been following Open Solaris as much as I’d have liked, but this post by Ben gets you up to speed on the current situation:

Ian Murdock’s distro formly known as “Indiana” will be birthed as “OpenSolaris” in less than a week, being debuted at CommunityOne on May 5th. This will be a major landmark even in the history of Solaris, right up there with the BSD-to-SysV transition and release of the code. There is no talk at Sun regarding Solaris 11, when pushed the only quote I get is “over my dead body”, apparently coming from high within the organization. While no one will clarify on the situation, the current vibe seems to be that Solaris 10 will be with us for a very long time, in update purgatory, while the future revolves around the OpenSolaris distribution. Ultimately the decision will probly be made by Sun’s attempts to get ISV’s behind OpenSolaris… but this is only my hunch, I’ll continue pushing Sun to clarify the roadmap, perhaps at CommunityOne will learn more.

… Its time for a community reset. With the release of the OpenSolaris distro the last bits of the community started by Andy Tucker and Claire Giordano will be, in my view, gone away. The experiment in community official ended and replaced. Rather than the community being joint owners of Solaris it will be affirmed that Sun is firmly staying at the helm and we’re free to board the train and pitch in if we choose. Those of us fighting against the tide are now presented with a choice… give up and try to re-invent our roles in the “new reality” or continue to fight the inevitable like so many of those in our community who still whine if an OS doesn’t run on an i386 with 512K of RAM looking like a senile prick.

It seems clear to me that Sun is not going to give up full control of Open Solaris. To be fair, Red Hat didn’t go as open with Fedora as was initially assumed either. In the end, much of it comes down to how Sun perceives Solaris driving its bottom line. It used to be that Solaris sold expensive SPARC hardware. That’s not as much the case any more. Where that leaves Solaris is unclear to me. Sun is still driving innovation – you need look no further than DTrace and ZFS to see evidence of that. Does that sell enough Sun hardware to justify the engineering costs associated with Solaris? I don’t know, but at some point Sun is going to have to look very at that question and they may not like the answer they get.

While catching up on Open Solaris, I also came across two good posts by Ted. In What Sun was trying to do with Open Solaris he looks into what kinds of participation Sun was originally looking for when they launched Open Solaris. His Organic vs. Non-organic Open Source follow up delves into a Brian Aker comment about projects moving between “organic” and “non-organic” (or in the case of Solaris->Open Solaris, moving between proprietary and either organic/non-organic Open Source). These kind of issues are going to be getting more and more scrutiny if I had to guess, as more and more commercial Open Source companies are going to have to figure out their business models and hit revenue goals. The commercial Open Source space is starting to mature, and I don’t think some people are going to like it.

–jeremy

OLPC's New President & Negroponte: Its a Laptop Project Now

It’s a bit sad to see the new direction the OLPC project may be taking. The Open Source community has put a lot into the project, not only from a technical standpoint but from a marketing one as well. I think many of us thought that Open Source was baked in and part of what was needed for the project to obtain its goals. It’s becoming clear that’s not the case and the project has already seen some high profile departures. For my part, LQ was one of the first “give one get one” customers and we promoted it fairly heavily at conferences and online. I really agreed with the original goals of the project. It seems things are starting to unravel a bit and it will be a shame if things don’t work out as originally planned.

–jeremy

Lug Radio Live US

The first Lug Radio Live in the US was held over the weekend. I was both an attendee and a sponsor, and think the event went extremely well (especially when you consider it was a first and put on by 4 people that reside on a different continent). I’d guess Cat and Leslie from Google had a lot to do with that. The speaking lineup was both interesting and entertaining, with some presentations that I don’t think you’ll see at any other event. LRL is fairly informal, which gives it a pretty unique flavor all its own. I’d met two of the LR team previously and it was great to meet the other two – they’re an extremely fun group. I unfortunately didn’t do any blogging during the event, but here are a couple of comments/highlights/random facts from memory:

* Samba resulted from a grep of /usr/dict/words. This came as a result of a company sending a cease and desist over the previous smbserver name. That company later went out of business and admitted Samba was a much better name :)
* Miguel during a presentation that wasn’t going as planned – “Oh, I see – I F&*@’d up line 58”
* I should really have some custom LQ mod shirts made for the next time we exhibit.
* “I was actually feeling pretty good about Microsoft before OOXML” –JA
* “OOXML is *not* implementable by anyone other than Microsoft”
* Sun really doesn’t seem to want ZFS and Dtrace on other platforms – they see them as “differentiators”. (NOTE: I wish I remember who said this…but I don’t)
* Interesting point that was brought up. “One day CIO’s woke up and Linux was everywhere”. We all knew this, but it got me thinking. I’d guess a lot of the rapid success companies like RHT are seeing is due to the fact that CIO’s felt pressured to get support for this unknown influx of Linux. Now that they know and are addressing the issue, I assume much of the low hanging fruit, from a sales perspective, is starting to clear the queues. It’s unclear to me how this will impact growth in a couple years. We’ll have to see.
* The women in Open Source issue is an interesting one, and one I’ll need to think more about.
* Miguel and Jeremy should probably not share a mic.
* “What does Open Source mean when software is no longer deployed”
* Android looks really cool – I’ll almost certainly ditch the iPhone for this.

I hope the event comes back to the US next year and certainly plan to attend the event in the much ballyhoed Wolverhampton, UK. If you weren’t able to attend the event, the videos should be up soon (and are Creative Commons licensed). I’m in Santa Clara for the MySQL Expo now and hope to do a little better job about blogging that as it’s going on. The morning has already been interesting.

Cheers,
–jeremy

Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit

As I mentioned in the podcast, I had planned to attend the Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit but had to cancel due to a last minute conflict. Since I wasn’t able to attend I’ve been keep a close eye on the coverage. It looks like I’m missing a great event. Here’s a couple links if you’re also interested in the event:

LF YouTube Channel
InformationWeek
Amanda McPherson on the VA announcement
SJVN live
Dave Jones
LWN

If you have a good link that I missed, feel free to post it in the comments.

–jeremy

Lack of Linux support is … lacking

Greg KH just released the Linux Driver Project Status Report as of April 2008. The executive summary:

The Linux Driver Project (LDP) is alive and well, with over 300 developers wanting to participate, many drivers already written and accepted into the Linux kernel tree, and many more being currently developed. The main problem is a lack of projects. It turns out that there really isn’t much hardware that Linux doesn’t already support. Almost all new hardware produced is coming with a Linux driver already written by the company, or by the community with help from the company.

There are two main classes of hardware, video input devices and wireless network cards, that is not well supported by Linux, but large efforts are already underway to resolve this issue, with the wireless driver issue pretty much taken care of already, however there are a few notable exceptions.

Because of this, our main effort has turned into one of education. Educating vendors of how to become members of the Linux kernel community, proper coding standards and procedures, and how to get their code into the kernel tree. Much of our recent effort has been in code cleanup and shepherding into the kernel.org releases.

In the future, we are open to any new devices that need drivers to be written for them, and our procedure for handling projects is going to be changing to reflect the lessons learned in the past year to make things easier for vendors to participate, and for the community to easily detect what is going on and be able to help out in easier ways.

The 451 Group has a nice summary:

But now comes word from Kroah-Hartman that there is actually a dearth of devices that are not supported by Linux. Similar to a recent kernel development study, news on the lack of hardware support issues comes with a status report on the Linux Driver Project. It now has driver code in the kernel and the interest of more than 300 Linux developers. But the real story is that, as Kroah-Hartman says, ‘It turns out that there really isn’t much hardware that Linux doesn’t already support.’ More importantly, he adds, ‘Almost all new hardware produced is coming with a Linux driver already written by the company, or by the community with help from the company.’

This says a lot about how far Linux has come, and it also tells us that the future for Linux looks bright because the open source OS is emerging as just another checklist item for OEMs, device makers, ISVs and others. Given the overwhelming support of hundreds of Linux developers and the underwhelming vendor response, Kroah-Hartman searched for the reason(s) that the great Linux support shortage appeared to be a myth. Having already pointed out that Linux supports more different devices than any other OS in the world, Kroah-Hartman reports he found that nobody seemed to know why this was ranked as a big concern for Linux. Fast forward to today, and we see the Linux Foundation no longer has driver support among its top things to be addressed.

I’d guess it ranked as such a big concern because the two main classes of hardware that aren’t well supported are both high profile and fairly annoying. These days, a computer in many contexts is useless without the Internet and much of that connectivity comes via wifi. While I’m not a gamer, many people are and current 3D video situation is still far from ideal. Those two issues aside though, I can’t remember the last time I plugged a device into a Linux machine without it “just working”. On the server side, many devices are supported in Linux before any other OS.

It’s great to see the project turn their attention to educating vendors, which should result not only in more driver but better drivers.

–jeremy

Gratis 2008 MySQL Conference & Expo Conference Pass

I recently mentioned that LQ will be sponsoring a number of upcoming Linux and Open Source related conferences. I’m extremely happy to report that we are now able to give away a completely free conference pass to some of them. The first one is the 2008 MySQL Conference & Expo, which is a $1,199.00 value. To be eligible, simply post in this thread explaining how you work with MySQL or how you’re involved in the MySQL community along with why you’d like to attend the event. We’ll randomly select a winner from the eligible entries. We only have a single pass to give away, so please make sure you are able to attend the event before entering. Thanks, and good luck.

Note: We also have some gratis LugRadio Live USA 2008 tickets available. See my previous post if you’re interested.

–jeremy

Upcoming Events

LinuxQuestions.org is proud to sponsor a variety of Linux and Open Source related conferences and expos. The list of events coming up over the next couple months is significant, so I wanted to post about a few of them here.

OSBC

Attend OSBC March 25-26, 2008 at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco and connect with the best and brightest in the open source community, engage with your peers in thought-provoking sessions and networking functions, and see the latest vendors on display in the open source showcase.

You can register here. I attended this event last year and it was an interesting one. If you’re in the area and doing commercial Open Source, I’d recommend it. I will be attending the event again this year.

MySQL Conference & Expo

Fast-paced sessions, guru-programming advice, in-depth tutorials, late night hacking…the MySQL Conference & Expo packs a wealth of big ideas, know-how, and connections into 4 concentrated days and nights. Learn how to create the best database applications, tools, and software through expert instruction and hands-on learning at the MySQL Conference & Expo, April 14-17, Santa Clara, CA. Use code mys08linq to save 15% off registration fees.

I attended this event last year and had a great time. With the recent acquisition of MySQL AB by Sun, I am really looking forward to attending this year.

LugRadio Live USA 2008

LugRadio Live USA 2008 brings San Francisco the unique atmosphere of LugRadio Live UK, an event that has developed a strong reputation for providing a range of topics about free software, Open Source, digital rights, technology and more, a compelling list of speakers, exhibitors and birds of a feather sessions, and wrapping it all in a unique, fun, loose, social and inclusive event, which is often described as combining the atmosphere of a rock concert and a computer conference.

LugRadio Live USA 2008 brings this unique atmosphere to the USA, with around 30 speakers, over 20 exhibitors, an eclectic range of BOF sessions, and plenty of additional sessions such as our debate discussion panel, a showcase of five minute talks, tech demos, and of course a live recording of LugRadio in front of an audience.

This will be the first LRL I have attended and I’m really looking forward to it. Would you like to attend LugRadio Live USA 2008? I’m happy to announce that I’m able to give away a couple of tickets gratis. The first three people to contact me, confirming that they’d like to attend, will get a free ticket.

–jeremy